Trees are the Answer: Questioning Adversity

Trees are the Answer: Questioning Adversity

Jayne Michener has been married for over twenty years to a "son of thunder" and is mother to two adolescent daughters, one delightfully immersed in nature and another humorous, artistic girl who is devoted to cats.The better days are spent developing Christian culture and character with the educational principles of Charlotte Mason in mind.The worse days are spent with lightly held sanity, tightly gripped coffee, and semi-vocalized prayer.She is on a journey depending on the Holy Spirit to guide her into all truth, whether unseen spiritual realms or earthly ventures, such as education, healing arts, nutrition, neuroscience, and art.Oh, and her children would be horrified if she did not mention that they live with two cats, Blacksmith and Beauty.
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Trees are the Answer?

A true story was told concerning a bold venture to grow the strongest possible trees, which would then be made available for purchase. The saplings were planted inside a large, domed stadium to protect this
young forest from inclement weather. In fact, these trees received every possible nourishment and protection, and after the proper lapse of time, the trees were made available for transplant.

As it turns out, this venture was an abject failure.

The trees proved to be as fragile as thin glass, with limbs breaking under the slightest pressure.

In trying to mitigate all risk, the aborists had noble intentions, but they failed to take into account the benefits of naturally occurring, contrasting winds. Strength and resilience developed only in presence of wind pressure. To remove external pressure removed internal strength.

Are we resisting God’s goodness?

All adversity involves real risk that it will not go well. But in that risk also lies the opportunity for previously unknown growth. Perhaps in seeking to build a dome and resist natural adversity, we also resist God’s goodness for our lives.

Through breeze and storm, we are storytellers in our own lives, narrating our experiences and coloring our tales with various emotional shades. Our inner voice interprets the trials of life to explain events that challenge us.

In this task we must prophecy over ourselves based on the wisdom of both nature and Scripture. We must whisper in our own ear,

The God who loves us is developing our strength. We will not be children made of glass timber, but will be mighty in the tempest. This adversity is my opportunity for unforeseen growth.

Will we take the opportunity to grow in faith?

When presented with the opportunity to grow in faith while traversing the desert, the Israelites failed. They complained of bitter hardships, despised the heavenly manna, and longed for “free” Egyptian food and meat. The people rejected the opportunity in their adversity, aborting their growth and resulting in a severe plague (Numbers 11). Not all challenges go well.

Much like the Israelites, complaining plagues us.

Perhaps you, like me, had never looked at the synonyms for complaining, but the words seem to be reproaches unto themselves:

  • Grumbling,
  • protesting,
  • whining,
  • bellyaching,
  • fretting,
  • lamenting,
  • moaning,
  • mourning,
  • weeping,
  • repining,
  • murmuring and
  • regretting.

Conceived in the mind and birthed with the mouth, these verbs are deadly.

The book of James compares the tongue to the rudder of a ship which steers its course; likewise, complaining steers the course of adversity away from its proper destination of God’s goodness and into the peril of plague. Looking in faith towards the goodness of God in the midst of adversity allows his providence to meet us in our desert of need.

What is the poison and the antidote?

In the case of adversity, verbs are both the poison and the antidote. The antidote to poisonous complaining is found in the antonyms of complaining: Appreciating, enjoying, and praising, which sounds remarkably like Psalms 100:4:

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”

Complaining kills, but praise prospers.

Once, when diligently pursuing God, I prayed that he would remove the scales from my eyes so that I could see him, and a still, quiet voice said,

“Thanksgiving removes the scales from your eyes so you can
see God.”

Later that weekend at a women’s conference, the main speaker declared these very words from the stage.

Oftentimes in the midst of adversity we are in such turmoil and angst that God seems ever far away, not the God who is near. We can’t see God.

Thanksgiving not only reminds us of his goodness to know his nearness in our pain, but it is also a safeguard to protect our hearts from bitter despair.

Likewise, praise raises our eyes in hope, knowing that his goodness and power are abundantly sufficient for the trials we face.

More than that, praise sets the stage for miracles.

My favorite example of this principle is found in II Chronicles 20 which describes three vast armies that came to wage war against King Jehoshaphat. Alarmed, Jehoshaphat determined to inquire of the Lord,
concluding in prayer,

“We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

The next day Jehoshaphat demonstrated his faith that the battle
belonged to the Lord by sending out – not the cavalry – but praise teams to lead his army. From what happened next, it appears that their worship activated God’s saving might. Verse 22 states,

“As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.”

What might have happened if Jehoshaphat had met his time of adversity without inquiry, without faith, without song? Would the nation have forfeited God’s goodness that was waiting for them in song at that moment of trial?

Trees are the Answer.

Going back to our planters of domed trees, they would have benefited from the perspective of an eminent Indian scientist, Professor Sir Jagadis Chandra Bose. He had already concluded one hundred years earlier,

“A plant carefully protected under glass from outside shocks looks sleek and flourishing but its higher nervous function is then found to be atrophied… Is it not the shocks of adversity and not cotton wool protection that evolve true manhood?”

Perhaps with the protection of cotton wool removed, we develop full Christian maturity, i.e.

“We will in all things grow up into Christ Himself, who is the head” (Ephesians 4:15).

Thanksgiving circumvents adverse outcomes during this risky but necessary process, and praise ushers us into the King’s holy presence, the place where all power lies to overcome adversity.

My husband and I once saw a bumper sticker we never forgot: TREES ARE THE ANSWER. We weren’t sure what the question was, but now as we reflect on adversity, joy, and strength, we are ready to boldly proclaim,

“Trees Are The Answer!”

Take a Tip from St. Nick

Take a Tip from St. Nick

I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.

I am a mother of 5 crazy, homeschooling children ages 10 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.
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As the kid’s and I were listening to an audio book called The Autobiography of Santa, I couldn’t help but think about how we all need to take a tip from St. Nick.

Take a Tip from St. Nick

You see the orphan turned bishop, who eventually turned into a larger than life mythical, jolly, gift-giving legend, started out as an innocent young man simply trying to provide for others who were in need without embarrassing them. He would sneak in, gift items to children so the parents wouldn’t be ashamed.

His goal was to give anonymously!

He did it without fan fare and did not want to claim the recognition. It is this very act of going about giving gifts that we should take as a tip from St. Nick.

In a world where every act of kindness seems to be captured and posted on social media, it’s refreshing to take on the challenge of doing good and keeping it between us and God. His love compels us to love like he loves and to give all the glory to God instead of keeping it for ourselves.

Nicholas seemed to take to heart Jesus’ word found in Matthew 6:2:

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

Anonymous Giving

Have you ever done this? Have you ever given a gift to someone and they didn’t know?

I had an amazing English teacher when I was in High School who challenged us to do good deeds and not tell anyone. I took this to heart and found that it’s like having a wonderful, uplifting experience with Jesus. It brings so much joy to give to others and since God knows all our actions, we can bask in the opportunity to share what he has shared with us with others and praise Him for letting us do it!

The Key to Giving Well

Obviously, St. Nick holds the monopoly on using chimneys. I don’t mind that much because I’m not one for small, sootty spaces. But there are plenty of ways that gifting to those in need can happen without much fan fair. One of the most important things to do when trying to meet the needs of others is listening to them.

Find out what they actually need and gift that specifically.

In this historical fiction book there is a dialog that happens between the young Nicholas and his priestly mentor, who encourages him to see the needs around him and problem solve how best to give.

Nicholas became frustrated after placing coins in a stocking so a young girl could purchase crutches, but instead the mother used the coins to purchase something for herself.  After ranting and raving about how evil the mother was, the priest simply asked:

Did you leave a note as to how to use the funds?

How were they supposed to know the money was for crutches?

Would the girl lean on the coins to go buy the crutches?

Understanding what the priest was saying, Nicholas later returned, after carving the girl a special set of crutches.

Setting Our Pride Aside When Giving

I’ve mentioned before how I have personally realized that sometimes I believe I know what someone needs better than they know their own needs. Well, I’ve been shamefully wrong before and Jesus’ example leads us to listen, provide physically, and explain how God provides spiritually.

So the key to giving well is to listen and pay attention to those in need around us.

The Gift of a Generous Spirit

If you want to get in the need seeking and gift giving mood as well as be entertained by how the adventures of Nicholas evolved into Santa Clause, then you would enjoy listening or reading The Autobiography of Santa Clause by Jeff Guinn.

It’s full of historical facts, figures, and in a beautifully entertaining way weaves in geography with the rise and fall of empires. It embarks the reader upon an adventure of understanding how December 25 became the day to celebrate as well as including other men to myth legends such as King Arthur and Attila the Hun.

Our family has had so much fun listening to it, especially since we’ve been studying many of the places and people that are mentioned.

The Gift We ALL Need

But of course the greatest gift giving book is the one that brings a joy-filled eternal life – The Bible. Through these pages and in every story, if we look close enough, we will see how God weaves his love throughout the generation to give us the best gift ever, his one and only son, who would choose to glorify God and sacrifice himself on the cross, so that we could be united in heaven with God eternally.

Jesus came into the world quietly, without a lot of fan fair. He found the ultimate way to meet our most glaring need, which was removing our sin, which broke our relationship with God. With a willing heart, Jesus did not hold any good thing back from us.

If you haven’t fully taken hold of this gift of grace that Jesus has extended to each one of us, then don’t wait any longer. Realize that his grace is for everyone and the greatest gift you could ever give to someone else is to share the story of God’s amazing grace with others.

Don’t selfishly hold it all to yourself. Don’t fear the reaction of what giving the truth of God’s grace to others might be, just give it freely. It’s THE best gift you could ever give because we all need it!

Nicholas understood this very well too and it was a gift he “fought” to gift as well. He willingly served time in prison when the Roman emperor Diocletian was persecuting Christians as well as at the Council of Nicaea.

So take this tip from St. Nick: Give anonymously to the needy and share the Gospel Truth with others! 

 

 

You’ll Never Know Until You Ask, So Just Ask

You’ll Never Know Until You Ask, So Just Ask

I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.

I am a mother of 5 crazy, homeschooling children ages 10 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.
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You’ll Never Know Until You Ask, So Just Ask.

This is what I have been telling my kids a lot lately, especially one in particular. He will start to ask a question, then think through what he is asking, answer it himself based on what he thinks I will answer, and then doesn’t even ask me.

It’s been annoying me, because he starts off with, “May I ask you a question?” To which I respond, “Always.” But then he doesn’t ask.

So once again today, he started the same pattern and I quickly encouraged him in a sing song voice, “Just ask. I might say “no” or I might say “yes,” but you will never know until you ask!”

With a slight hesitation, he asked, “Can we go get a snack at X?

To which I responded: “No, but thank you for asking. I’m thankful that you asked. Now you know the answer.”

Another question was obviously brewing. I could see it written across his forehead in the review mirror. Then, without asking if he could ask he smiled and boldly began:

“Then, can we go to the chocolate factory for a little treat…just you and me?”

Oh, that boy knows my weakness. “Of course, yes. Just you and I will go and get a treat. See, if you have chosen not to ask, we would not have this opportunity to enjoy this treat together. So please, from now on, just ask. You will never get a yes, if you choose not to ask.”

The Boldness of Just Asking

There are many who asked Jesus for things. Some wanted to be healed. Others wanted to follow him.

But there was one man in particular that stands out in my mind because many would have proclaimed he was absolutely unworthy to even talk to the Messiah let alone make a request of him.

This man, while Jesus was dying on the cross, heaped insult after insult upon him. And yet as the hours passed, the insult slinger noticed something different about the man who shared the same fate as himself. He realized that the “King of the Jews” he had been taunting, really was the chosen Messiah. He went from keeping insults to defending him.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?
We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Luke 23: 39-41

In that very moment, maybe even with the same breath, after scolding the criminal being crucified across from him, he turned his gaze to Jesus. His boldness skipped just asking, but audaciously steamrolled straight to a sincere plea:

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Luke 23:42

Jesus’ reply not only reveals his grace, mercy, and ability to read hearts in a way that proves He was God incarnate, but stuns us thousands of years later. The words that are graciously spoken between struggling breaths while hanging on the cross give us hope and remind us to just ask Jesus no matter the circumstance:

“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
-Jesus, Luke 23:43

Jesus Wants Us to Just Ask

Ask I pour over the Bible, I see Jesus repeatedly exclaiming the importance of coming to our Heavenly Father in prayer about everything. With all our feelings, hopes, dreams, sorrows, and confusions. When we choose to engage in prayer with God we are in essence entering a spiritual and eternal conversation.

Let’s make the most of it and enjoy the relationship Jesus died on the cross to gift us!

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
-Jesus, Luke 14:12-14

In essence, Jesus encourages us to just ask.  He wants us to lean into him, to fear the Lord, to ask his guidance, and to seek his will. He wants to gift us with his abilities and willingness to be bold and it all starts by trusting that he will answer our prayers.

What have you been longing to ask the Lord, but have left unasked?

The blessings the Lord will gift in response to our asking are far better than any chocolate treat that we could receive.  As my son and I walked out of the “chocolate factory” this is the lesson I encouraged his heart to hear. 

Praying Luke: Glorifying the Lord in the Big & Small Details!

Praying Luke: Glorifying the Lord in the Big & Small Details!

I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.

I am a mother of 5 crazy, homeschooling children ages 10 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.
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Glorifying the Lord

In the small details of her daily life as well as the big moments, Mary’s way of glorifying the Lord found favor with the Lord. This favor brought her some startling news. News that filled her heart with joy but brought a reality of being separated and set apart.

To hear the words that you are highly favored and will carry God’s son may have caused initial anxiety in some of our hearts, but Mary humbled herself to the Lord once again saying, “I am the servant girl of the Lord, let this thing happen to me.”

Yet, even though she humbled herself, she still quickly made her way to another who may have been the only one to understand what she was going through at the moment. The only one who could give her the encouragement she needed to hear so she could know that what she had just experienced wasn’t a dream. It was reality. A reality that would cause her to burst into glorifying the Lord even more.

Oh, Lord, may we also humble ourselves to your will and be your servants! May we glorify you in the big and small details of our lives!

Luke 1:38

Lord, you are holy and know what we need!

When you call us, instead of fighting you, may we be humble in heart like Mary and answer similarly:

“I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Oh, Lord, to have a willing heart to let you lead our souls and lives! That is what we want!

That is how we want to follow you!

In the One who is the ultimate example of how to walk in your ways – Amen!

Luke 1:39-40

God your grace is so good!

Not only did you choose to use Mary, your humble servant, but you gifted her heavenly and earthly support.

You knew that a pregnant virgin would gather some negative attention and be challenged, so you gifted her with a relative who was experiencing a similar miraculous event!

Lord, we know that when we trust in you that others will mock us too. Others will try to persuade us that following you is only causing us harm, but you are so good to support us spiritually and physically too.

Thank you for those who boldly walk in your ways and encourage others to do the same. Help us to be one of those who will trust in your ways even when it makes our lives more difficult.

You never promised this world would be easy, but you did promise you would walk with us along this journey.

In the One who walked the road to the cross on our behalf – Amen!

Luke 1:41-45

Lord, you know our hearts so well!

Even when we have listened and accepted the calling you have for us, sometimes we need affirmation. It seems like that is what you are doing here.

When Mary greeted Elizabeth, not only did little baby John leap for joy, but through the Holy Spirit, you confirmed a blessing upon Mary!

We can’t help but giggle that the blessing was exclaimed in a loud voice! Surely, Mary couldn’t have been far away. She was standing inside Zechariah and Elizabeth’s home and yet, you spoke loudly to her.

Maybe you needed her to hear you over her own thoughts.

Maybe she had just come from talking to Joseph, who was shocked at the news and didn’t know what to do.

Maybe from the time she left Nazareth to the time she arrived in the hill country of Judea, many thoughts had overtaken her and her heart needed to be reminded that this real and not just a dream!

It could have been any number of reasons, but you made a point to loudly exclaim that she was blessed among women.

Lord, we praise you for the reminders in our lives that we are loved by you and can trust you always.

You are an amazing God with an amazing plan. Your way of doing things is definitely not our way of doing things.

And we praise you for finding ways to strengthen our faith in you and what you are doing in our lives just like you did to Mary through Elizabeth!

In the One who proclaimed, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” – Amen!

Luke 1:46-56

Lord, Mary’s song to you is a beautiful reminder of how you take care of those who love you.

She humbled herself to you not only in life but in song. She rejoiced at how you remembered her humbleness and willingness to serve you.

May we remember how you have been faithful throughout the generations and extend your mercy from generation to generation.

We praise you for the amazing gift of life that she carried for 9 months. She literally carried the word of life in her.

Amazingly you have gifted us the Holy Spirit so we may carry the word of life with us too, in a different way, but still we can rejoice because you have gifted us, your humble servants, with such a wonderful blessing.

May we too honor you and choose to give you glory through our times of blessings and difficulties, instead of taking the credit ourselves.

In the One who sealed all who believe in Him and follow His ways with the gift of the Holy Spirit – Amen!

 

 

Pray Luke from the beginning…

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#prayingluke #luke1 #prayingthebible
Grace, Contentment and a Glass of Wine

Grace, Contentment and a Glass of Wine

I am a recovering Army brat who loves to travel and start new adventures. My handsome husband and I met at Oklahoma Christian University and he whisked me away to Kansas. So, I bought some ruby red high heels and made Topeka my home. I have a rough and rowdy Princess 4-year-old girl, amazing twin boys (almost 3) and a newborn baby girl who all make every day an adventure. We are grateful to be part of an amazing church in Topeka who regularly challenges and encourages our whole family. I have been both a full-time working mom and a stay-at-home-mom and/or both at the same time at one point or another. I am constantly seeking God’s wisdom on “balancing it all” and following His plan for my life, not mine.
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Grace and contentment.

These are perhaps two of the most difficult concepts to grasp as a mother. The glass of wine…well that’s just well deserved.

Becoming a mother opens a whole new realm of inner struggles and identity searching. Let’s face it, I’ve prayed for patience, wisdom and strength more in one hour today than I ever did before kids.

I recently read a blog about raising children and being a mother in a community rather than in the relative isolation that modern society in America tends to accept as normal.

The blessings that require so much fromWhen I read this article, I was a new stay at home mom and I felt alone.

Alone and burdened; inadequate and overwhelmed. The struggle surrounding the self-created isolation was real. I don’t know if the author of the article is a Christian, but the longing for a daily fellowship or cohesive community rang true to my soul.

And then I remembered I had that available to me in spades.

At least I should…within the body of Christ; fellow believers and fellow moms in all stages and situations raising their children to love the Lord.  Truly, this is the fellowship we crave isn’t it?!

Psalm 133:1-3 (ESV) says:
Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore.

How good it is when we dwell in unity, it is like precious oil on the head.

My heart swells when I read those verses and think about my relationships with other Christians, most especially my “mommy friends”.  Sadly, our culture and society has pitted us “mommies” against one another for various reasons and “atrocities” we commit in our life choices. Stay at home moms vs. working moms, moms of one vs. moms of twelve, moms of _______ vs. the world.

We all struggle.

Whether we work full time, stay at home or anything else in between, I believe we all continue struggle with feeling alone in our choice, like a lone warrior on a quest for well-adjusted children. The  pride that often rears its ugly head in motherhood sometimes fosters a defensive or competitive spirit even in the most subtle of ways, or even insecurity because we are guilty of not giving each other grace. It’s even harder to give ourselves grace. Then we feel discontentment.

1 Peter 4:10 (ESV) says:
10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

All of our lives look as unique as the people Christ created us to be even before we were knit together in our own mother’s womb. As women of God, we should have an abundance of grace for other moms.  We are called to love one another and many times, that looks like grace.  It is so much easier to have grace for others when our heart is right with the Lord.

Sometimes it’s hard though

sometimes we are angry about our own situation, or at the very least disillusioned as to what life or motherhood was supposed to look or feel like. Sometimes we feel displaced or overwhelmed, inadequate, or just plain exhausted. Sometimes it seems easier to run away.  During these is when we need to remember Galatians 6:2 (ESV):

 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

and a glass of wine - CopyEveryone struggles with contentment.

I am convinced that every mother, no matter what her situation, struggles with contentment in her “version” of motherhood. For me, I struggled with it the most after I had my first child. I found myself in a situation where I wanted to stay home but couldn’t (which hurt), but at the same time I struggled with loving my career and knowing that God had called me to do certain things outside the home. Then after my twins, I struggled with a calling to stay home with my kids in this season. I have been completely double minded, living on opposite spectrums of “my heart’s desire” searching for how to follow Christ’s will for my life. It seemed endless. Truly, the double mindedness of our own human hearts is at the center of the “mommy wars”.

You know what finally helped me find contentment and grace?

That community I mentioned. The body of Christ. Sisters in faith who listened, who mentored and who pointed me to God’s Word. A community of believers who challenged me in my double minded thinking, but also challenged me to understand that God’s will in an individual’s life is ultimately between that person and their Father.

I want to encourage women who feel isolated or discontent, or struggle with grace, to find a fellow believer in Christ as a prayer partner to hold you accountable for spending time in the Word and seeking Christ. I encourage you to be intentional in finding a mentor, an older sister in Christ who lives out Titus 2 and will teach you.  These women can dwell with you in unity, they can bear your burdens and give you grace all while pointing you toward Christ and being a godly mom.

The important things to do.

That’s the most important thing: that we are purposing to grow in our relationship with Christ and disciple our children.  Christian women in every stage of life and in every situation are striving toward that same chief end.

I pray that you find community, even here, and for you to know that you are not alone and that other women know exactly how you feel. Have grace on other moms, don’t let your pride, discontentment or defensiveness in your own life cause you to break fellowship with sisters in Christ or keep you from having a blessed friendship.

Finally, go have that glass of wine with a fellow sister or two. Or tea, or coffee. Or chocolate. Just build a deep community of faith in Christ, have grace for one another and be content in your season of life.

Romans 8:28 (ESV): And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Have you ever struggled with being discontent with your life ? What helped you overcome that feeling?

 

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